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Davis Balestracci


The Sad Reality of Quality Today

Even innovation and growth eventually create waste and inefficiencies

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 13:03

During the late 1970s, quality began to evolve from its historically Neanderthal, passive inspection approach to its current Cro-Magnon state, where its more proactive, project-based approach is bolted on to the operational status quo. Joseph Juran was a pioneer in such efforts. Various subsequent adaptations such as Six Sigma and lean evolved it further, but over time, it has become comfortably stuck in a misguided focus on tactical improvements at the expense of strategic improvements—i.e., doing things right as opposed to doing the right things right.

In 2011 Jim Liker, a professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan, wrote the following to leadership expert Jim Clemmer (emphasis mine):

“Originally Six Sigma was derived from [Total] Quality Management (TQM) by Motorola to achieve six sigma levels of quality, and then through Allied Signal and GE it morphed to projects by Black Belts based on statistics to become a cost-reduction program—every project needs a clear ROI. In other words, we denigrated the program from a leadership philosophy [i.e., built-in improvement] to a bunch of one-off projects to cut costs [i.e., bolt-on quality]. It was a complete bastardization of the original, and it rarely led to lasting, sustainable change because the leadership and culture were missing.... A similar thing happened to lean when it got reduced to a toolkit (e.g., value-stream mapping, KPI boards, cells, kanban).”

Meanwhile, W. Edwards Deming was on a parallel quest

Based on his experience with the post-World War II Japanese, Deming saw that the isolated teaching of statistical methods of quality control was not enough. There were always the subsequent, invisible barriers created by human and management cultures, as well as resistance in the environments in which statistics needed to be implemented.

After 25 years of such observation, he saw the need to become a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein trying to create new life—i.e., an improvement “mutation” that would be impossible to generate via evolution of the status quo. His 14 Points for Management and The Deming System of Profound Knowledge remain a transformational vision of built-in improvement. It is an executive leadership philosophy designed to be woven into organizational DNA by understanding all aspects of variation, much of which is hardly numerical. Its aim is to eradicate—rather than work around and tolerate—the everyday confusion, conflict, complexity, and chaos inherent in the status quo. Most important: It can’t be bolted on to the status quo!

People initially saw Deming as a curmudgeonly gadfly, which wasn’t helped by his infamous Frankenstein demeanor. When people would relate Six Sigma success stories to him, he would cryptically growl that getting things to where they should have been in the first place is not true improvement. He knew it was unrealistic to expect such a rate of improvement to be sustainable.

And there he would have remained, a beloved, amusing footnote in the history of quality. Until a perfect storm arrived during the 1980s: the U.S. automobile crisis; a TV documentary, “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” that spotlighted this virtually unknown statistician; the rise of cheap computers, user-friendly statistical software, and the internet. Thousands of people now packed Deming’s seminars in the naïve hope of painlessly copying his “Japanese miracle.” But there was always that frustrating, nagging, constant criticism that Deming neither gave “the answer” nor taught how to actually do it. Most people eventually gave up and just embraced some semblance of Six Sigma or lean.

Deming’s radical approach was not really grasped during his lifetime, and quite frankly it still continues to elude most people. This includes even his most ardent disciples, many of whom continue to assume that holding “Deming bible studies” while cherry-picking his philosophy and chanting, “Joy in work!” will transform anything.

Bob Emiliani: ‘Dilution widens acceptance. Acceptance widens dilution.’

Based on Everett Rogers’ classic diffusion of innovation curve, the thoughtful work of initial improvement innovators and early adopters got bulldozed, consumed, and diluted by a tsunami of both “early majority” and “late majority” improvement enthusiasts. Quality had suddenly become a respectable and well-paying career path, especially in healthcare.

However, the unchanging status quo of an arrogant, attention-deficit executive culture, along with decreasing organizational attention spans due to the accelerating speed of work demands, created fertile ground for what Liker saw as four key failure factors. They are, in order of importance:
• Leadership lacking deep understanding and commitment
• Focus on tools and techniques without understanding the underlying cultural transformation required
• A superficial program instead of deep development of processes that surface problems solved by thinking people
• Isolated process improvements instead of creating integrated systems for exceptional customer value

Painting by the numbers has never produced great art, so why should “quality by the numbers”—including Six Sigma, lean, and similar methodologies—produce great organizations?

The latest generation of improvement innovators and early adopters continues the exhausting struggle to keep its head above water, drowning in a sea of diluted improvement while paint-by-number “qualicrats” dog paddle alongside. Jim Clemmer justly characterized qualicrats as “a new breed of techno-manager.... These support professionals see the world strictly through data and analysis, and their quality improvement tools and techniques. While they work hard to quantify the ‘voice of the customer,’ the face of current customers (and especially potential new customers) is often lost.... some efforts are getting badly out of balance as customers, partners, and team members are reduced to numbers, charts, and graphs.”

Emiliani warns: “Today, you can quickly find the information you need in a book, a video, or a blog. Then your mind plays a trick on you: It tells you that knowing about something is darn close—or even the same—as having actually done it. There is a large gap between knowing and doing, but your mind tricks you into thinking the gap is small or nonexistent. This leads to overconfidence in what one knows. And then we excessively praise those who apply a few easy-to-use lean tools they read about in a book, or learned in a training course, and who do little more.”

And as Adam Walinsky notes, “If there are 12 clowns in a ring, you can jump in the middle and start reciting Shakespeare, but to the audience, you’ll just be the 13th clown.”

Today, there are many thousands of clowns. How does the sorely needed next generation of passionate improvement innovators get taken seriously in the face of these seemingly impossible odds? Right now, the Cro-Magnons are winning the “survival of the fittest” battle because their tendency toward good-enough mediocrity also has significant entrenched interests to keep that status quo fat and happy. A training-industry juggernaut, largely composed of unvetted, self-appointed experts (and their followers), and Deming “hacks” (his term), is holding improvement hostage. Too much time is spent building fortresses at the summit of Joseph Paris’ aptly named Mount Stupid in order to protect those heavily vested interests.

Emiliani: “Vested interests are remarkably durable because they are supported by various decision-making traps: anchoring, status quo, sunk cost, confirming evidence, framing, and estimating and forecasting. They are also buttressed by illogical thinking: avoiding the force of reason, false assumptions, red herrings, and special pleading, to name a few.”

Many influential people may indeed be skilled critical thinkers, adept at PDCA, 5 Whys, and A3 thinking, but their kowtowing to political correctness (and the easy financial success that can result) creates an insidious form of behavioral waste that makes nothing better. Haven’t you noticed increasing levels of groupthink and satisfaction among people who promote a management practice that abhors groupthink and satisfaction?

‘Improvement practitioner, heal thyself’—and standardize

Good improvement education teaches how to observe processes, think critically, and reflect on what we’ve learned, among many other things. Tools, advanced tools, urgent bolt-on projects, and obtaining certifications have become serious distractions to this basic work.

The need to improve business performance and the bottom line never goes out of style, but it’s time to move the focus from improvement methods to a holistic system that successfully creates and sustains significant improvements of any type, in any culture, and for any business. This is what Deming grasped.

Ron Snee, a respected statistical colleague well-versed in Deming theory, reminded us of painful lessons still not learned:
• Failing to design improvement approaches that require management’s active involvement
• Focusing on training rather than improvement (especially modular e-learning)
• Failing to use top talent to conduct improvement initiatives
• Failing to build the supporting infrastructure, including competent personnel skilled in improvement and management systems, to guide improvement
• Failing to work on the right projects—those that deliver significant bottom-line results and move the “big dots” in the board room
• Failing to plan for sustaining the improvements at the beginning of the initiative

Déjà vu? Aren’t these issues Deming was trying to address via his robust 14 points and subsequent (and, unfortunately, poorly named) System of Profound Knowledge?

Here are Snee’s seven characteristics of holistic improvement:
1. It works in all areas of the business—all functions and all processes.
2. It works in all cultures, providing a common language and tool set.
3. It can address all measures of performance (e.g., quality, cost, delivery, and customer satisfaction).
4. It addresses all aspects of process management (e.g., process design/redesign, improvement, and control).
5. It addresses all types of improvement (e.g., streamlining, waste and cycle-time reduction, quality improvement, and process robustness).
6. It includes management systems for improvement (e.g., plans, goals, budgets, and management reviews).
7. It focuses on developing an improvement culture (i.e., uses improvement as a leadership development tool).

You can’t bolt on Deming’s built-in philosophy

The obsession with Deming’s 14 points continues, as does the tired question, “Which of Dr. Deming’s points should I start with?” Answer: None of them… and all of them. When you can finally understand the answer, “All of them!” you’re on the right track.

Liker’s observed failure of “leadership lacking deep understanding and commitment” has become a tired platitude. Yet, in many conference presentations, people “sort of, kind of” mention it (quickly), then tiptoe around it and begin talking about the fad du jour that will allegedly empower the front line while magically creating “joy in work!” This is a definite problem that Deming’s Point No. 2: Adopt the new philosophy, and Point No. 7: Institute leadership address.

So, am I saying you should address those two points first? No. But do avoid the guaranteed-to-fail, cherry-picking approach.

Thirty years ago, I attended a talk where a Deming expert was asked over and over about the 14 points: “Which ones should you work on first?” and, “In what specific order should they be implemented?” You get the idea. After every question, he would smile and gently answer, “All of them.” He finally saw that the audience wasn’t getting it, and when asked yet another question about specific points, he stood up and answered: “All of them... all of them... all of them! They are a synergistic system.”

That was a huge aha moment for me. I finally got it. Paradoxically, by neither focusing on the points themselves nor working specifically on any of them, you can now work simultaneously on all of them. This is true fusion, in contrast with the naïve, futile “cold fusion” alchemy of cherry-picking the 14 points. As you do this and start to “get it,” you will find less and less need to even mention them.

What to do with recalcitrant executives and dreaded statistics?

The reality is that most leadership is clueless about the power of statistical thinking in everyday management, which certainly doesn’t help improvement efforts. This is also true of many practitioners. It’s neither’s fault.

Much of what is currently taught in (alleged) statistical training is legalized torture that shouldn’t be applied to daily management or most anything else—except maybe manufacturing product quality. I’m an MS statistician and finally “got it” that traditional topics such as p-values, confidence intervals, normal distribution, sample size, and regression are virtually worthless for everyday built-in improvement—except for the 1 to 2 percent of people who need advanced statistical knowledge to know when it is appropriate to use them.

Deming would roll over in his grave if he could see the statistical subculture of cookie-cutter hacks who have been turned out in his name. As he said, “Don’t waste too much time on tools and techniques. You can learn the lot in 15 minutes.”

The only prerequisite needed for the statistics that will solve 85 to 90 percent of your problems? An ability to count to eight, sort a list of numbers, and do basic arithmetic.

It’s about a mindset, not a tool set.

The everyday use of organizational data

Why do I get blank stares when I ask whether lean audiences are aware of “the routine organizational use of data” process? Consider:
• 50 percent of time executives spend in meetings where data are involved is waste
• Middle managers each waste one hour a day poring over useless operational reports
• 60 percent of published operational reports are waste
• 80 percent of published financial data are waste
(Courtesy of Mark Graham Brown)

How many meetings? How many people? How many hours? Multiply all these times salary/benefits and you get? A huge number!

I dare you to find a bigger waste. I can hear many of you, “Show me some examples.” Here you go: If you don’t see at least a dozen similar opportunities in your work, and even more important, are blind to the destruction caused by these kinds of meetings, get out of improvement!

By using routine data meetings as a vehicle to reduce everyday data insanity, you can begin to eradicate the destructive organizational plague caused by treating common cause as special. Wouldn’t that be a catalyst to boost the credibility of your more formal efforts, regardless of the improvement approach? Think of how that liberated precious time and reduced chaos would increase your effectiveness—and reputation.

The need for an organizationwide language regardless of improvement approach

An initial objective of built-in improvement should be to reduce cultural human variation by creating a common improvement language for everyone—a basic understanding of process, variation, plotting data over time, and common vs. special causes, which easily take less than an hour. What would it be like to have a culture that would routinely ask:
• Are we perfectly designed to get this result?
• Is this a common or special cause?
• This is awfully vague. How can we find and focus on the vital 20 percent?
• What would plotting the dots tell us?

Regarding the last point, this will begin new, more productive conversations. Several important things happen when you plot data over time.

First, you have to ask what data to plot. In exploring the answer, you begin to clarify aims and also see the system from a wider viewpoint. Where are the data? What do they mean? To whom? Who should see them? Why? These are questions that integrate and clarify aims and systems all at once.

Second, you get a leg up on improvement. When important indicators are continuously monitored, it becomes easier to study the effects of innovation in real time, without deadening delays for setting up measurement systems or obsessive collections during baseline periods of inaction. Tests of change get simpler to interpret when we use time as a teacher.

Use the Pareto Principle: What are the 20 percent of the routine numbers that cause 80 percent of the organizational perspiration? Plot them! How do they link with current projects?

Most important of all: Demonstrate competence

Get results first, quietly and without fanfare, before you exhort everyone else to do it. Earn the reputation for being a competent practitioner—one who lets colleagues get all the credit for any results.

Top and middle management will initially fight you every step of the way. Lecture, logic, and one-off demonstrations (especially Deming’s red bead experiment) won’t even begin to make a dent in this. As a short-term strategy, create a critical mass of 25 to 30 percent of your leadership who are interested in practicing data sanity to help them get improvement results. Let them take the credit while encouraging them to educate your culture.

How many of Deming’s 14 points does this process address? (All of them.) Have I formally referred to any?

I can hear the chorus, “But how will we know how we’re doing?” Do you realize that your executive and cultural behaviors are screaming at you to be read?
• What do schedules, budgets, meeting agendas, and promotions telegraph as to values and priorities? What are you noticing compared to six months ago?
• How many meetings rife with data insanity are still tolerated? How many have you made “data sane?”
• Have successes using data sanity been visibly celebrated?
• Are the words “statistical,” “quality,” and “SPC” being used less as qualifiers because they are givens?

How many leaders are willing to own and deal with the lack of “joy in work!” caused by confusion, complexity, and chaos (and for some, their tantrums) due to a lack of basic knowledge of variation in the “everyday use of data” process? This remained the underlying source of Deming’s unforgiving curmudgeonliness until the end of his life.

If you’d like to explore this perilous, but endlessly fascinating, journey further, check out my article, “But Deming didn’t tell us how to ‘do’ Deming!” I don’t tell you, either, but I supply you with a road map for the unique journey you will have to forge.

Unclutter your mind

Beginners acquire new theories and techniques until their minds are cluttered with options.
Advanced students forget their many options.

They allow the theories and techniques that they have learned to recede into the background.

Learn to unclutter your mind.
Learn to simplify your work.

As you rely less and less on thinking you know exactly what to do, your work will become more direct and powerful.
You will discover that the quality of your consciousness is more potent than any technique or theory or interpretation.

Learn how fruitful the blocked group or individual suddenly becomes when you give up trying to do just the right thing.

—No. 48 from John Heider’s The Tao of Leadership (Green Dragon Books, 2013)

For those of you interested in Snee’s original article, see “Digging the Holistic Approach.”


About The Author

Davis Balestracci’s picture

Davis Balestracci

Davis Balestracci is a past chair of ASQ’s statistics division. He has synthesized W. Edwards Deming’s philosophy as Deming intended—as an approach to leadership—in the second edition of Data Sanity (Medical Group Management Association, 2015), with a foreword by Donald Berwick, M.D. Shipped free or as an ebook, Data Sanity offers a new way of thinking using a common organizational language based in process and understanding variation (data sanity), applied to everyday data and management. It also integrates Balestracci’s 20 years of studying organizational psychology into an “improvement as built in” approach as opposed to most current “quality as bolt-on” programs. Balestracci would love to wake up your conferences with his dynamic style and entertaining insights into the places where process, statistics, organizational culture, and quality meet.


The Sad Reality of Quality Today

Hi David.

I have a copy of the ASQ JUSE Tokyo Confeence from 1978. One speaker was Dr W Edwards Deming on his "25 Points for Administration".

It was as we know not distilled to his popularised "14 Points for Management" until the 1980's.

Dr Ishikawa's book on Introduction to Quality Control and J Akao's Hoshin Kanri provides similar historical perspectives on Dr Deming from 1950-53 and how JUSE had to invite Dr JM Juran in 1954 to rectify "these [3] problems Dr Deming caused" from 1954 and again in 1960.

All the best for Christmas and a great 2020. I enjoy your writing.


Thank you for your kind words...

...and interesting tidbits about Dr. Deming.  Am I missing something?  Dr. Juran was called in to clean-up after Deming?  :-)

What were the three problems Dr. Deming caused?

All the best to you for 2020,


The Sad Reality of Quality Today

Yes read - "Dr Ishikawa's book on Introduction to Quality Control". It is sobering to read as history repeats itself.



Juran wrote a book A History of Managing for Quality His chapter on Japan was written by Nonakata.  His perspectives on the issue... ishikawa wrote Deming lectures were enlightening.   Juran was brought in to broaden the perspective from statistical to more comprehensive approach. His perspective was that Demings approach led to an over emphasis on statistics(problem 1). And management not having a lot of emphasis on total quality control (Problem 3). It was Ishkawa,s perspective.  The chapter summary was interesting as he writes the Japanese would have achieved world quality leadership without Deming or Juran. He points both gave seminars in US was limited in success.  His summary was Japanese leadership was driven by being destroyed by the war and a need to overcome the reputation for shoddy products. The Japanese also had National continued education bringing in gurus regularly by JUSE, radio programs given to mid level managers...This contradicts Ishkawa's problem 3.  He then points out that both Deming and Juran were sowing seeds in soil ready for growing.  They were catalysts.    Recall this is the book Juran edited ... My view...What happened in Japan was multifaceted.. However the point all agree on was it requires management knowledge of quality and continuity of purpose... This ties in nicely with Davis's brilliant article about bolt on quality versus a comprehensive system approach to quality. Davis you are so smart.   Deming evolved and learned after the 1950s and by the 1980s provides a firm starting point for organizations and Davis' article is the fired starting gun.  The question is will it be heard by the runners who are facing the wrong way and will Kenneth Hopper be correct in saying "Deming was a kind of protestent Don Quixote who broke his lance of quality on the heavily fortified windmill of stockholder value..."with me adding  or next quarters earnings.  

Thank you for this clarifying insight...

...and your very kind comments.


Today's Healthcare Q.I. Déjà vu Continuing to Repeat Same Errors


This is the best article I've read in at least two years. The sad reality: Those who need to understand your words here have no understanding of what Deming tried to teach us, and have a short term thinking of quick qains that we have done over, and over, and over again remaining in a quicksand of Q.I. with nothing sustainable and overdependance on statistics they do not even understand yet purchase powerful software to justify their repeated actions of generations before us.  They cannot grasp what needs to be changed first: CULTURE! 

I love this. It's like you were talking right out of my own mind! You have articulated the current state of Healthcare perfectly!

I'll do my best to translate this to my peers in a Politically Correct way.

Call me sometime soon.

Hope you are doing well.

Best regards,


Good to hear from you, Gary!

Sounds like you're still fighting the same battles as when we first met (and we know how that turned out!)?

Politically Correct isn't a strength of mine...but I can at least look at myself in the mirror in the morning. Let's just say I ain't getting rich.


Healthcare is indeed hopeless:  vague solutions to vague problems yield vague results...and that includes its current fad du jour of shouting "Joy in work!" from the rooftops.

I'd love to catch up.  Sorry we never got that chance to do more work together.

ALL the best,


Davis, Deming and Quality

On every corridor in edison'slab in newjersey there is a framed quote by Reynolds: "There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labour of thinking".

Deming (and Davis) want us to think. Tricky business. 

In the age of big data and analytics, quaity nees to move on and treat information quality. This is the natural path to take that would keep quaity relevant. A time stamped path of the evoluation of quality is presented in https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/evolution-quality-from-product-information-ron-s-kenett/?fbclid=IwAR1TiZqU2E3DltOXg9-GiaAQPaMKrgAy7RM_c4tLe6tCLItzBwpM1QrJqrE

Also the role of the leader of statistical methods envisaged by Deming evovled. It is now the Chief Information Officer or the top data scientist in an organisation.

These topics (Information Quality and The Real of Work of Data Science) are discussed in:

[following books are co-authored by poster  -- QD]



Astute comments, as always, Ron

This other QD article of mine also addresses these concerns of yours regarding "Big Data":


I'm so glad there are tenacious "data scientists" like you!

Thank you and ALL the best,


You don't need my endorsement

You don't need my endorsement and patronising ; this is an excellent article . 

Only , I believe that Dr. Juran did admonish the narrow focus on stamping out fires , he did say 'Make no small plans' . People just chose to take the way way out . 

Thank you, Balaji

I am indebted to Dr. Juran's wonderful book "Managerial Breakthrough" for a treasure trove of everyday wisdom!  However, he insisted on a "bolt-on" approach to the status quo that formally set up an additional arm known as "Quality" in an organization that, in most cases, sank under the weight of its required excruciating formality. He accepted "confusion, conflict, complexity, and chaos" as necessary evils to work around, but Dr. Deming was adamant about eradicating their pervasive influence, which many saw as a fool's errand.

Not if top management is truly and passionately committed to excellence and not just "pretty good, 'above average' mediocrity"...

All the best to you and your Deming efforts in India. I'm afraid it's too late for the USA...and healthcare. Too many efforts remain entrenched atop Mount Stupid.


14 Points or Profound Knowledge


Thanks for a very insightful article.  I think you have articulated very well the stalled quality movement of today and some good reasons why we are stalled. 

But I would like to point out that Deming, later in life, finally gave in to those who kept asking which point to work on first by elucidating his basis for the 14 points:  Profound Knowledge.  He basically said that the points flow from Profound Knowledge and that Profound Knowledge itself was a system in which all of the aspects of it worked together and were dependent on each other.  With some thought. it becomes obvious that the 14 points are directly tied to Profound Knowledge.  So it might be easier to persuade someone that seeking to learn about and implement Profound Knowledge, starting with the top leaders of an organization, and its management, might be the best way to proceed.  Teach them about "appreciation for a system" so that system thinking becomes a way of life for management first, and then all members of the organization.  Teach them about "variation" and how it works and why variation is a natural consequence of all processes which can, through quality improvement efforts, get better.  Teach them about "theory of knowledge" so that managers especially will provide guidance and direction based on solid theory and that everyone in the organization understands such theory and evolves the theory when needed.  Teach them about "psychology" so that they will know exactly how employees respond to the absurd stack-ranking and performance evaluation rampant in today's companies, among other things.  

All of these, once disseminated, lead to every one of Deming's 14 points for management and make them logical things to work on as part of changing the organization's culture to one of quality and improvement.  

- MIke Harkins

When it comes to execs, there is no "teaching"...

Thank you for reading and for your kind comments.

I understand that Deming evolved to see that the 14 Points were actually manifestations of the deeper THEORY he eventually formulated -- such is the nature of empirical development.  But if it took him that long, why should we expect execs (of all people, with their famous lack of attention spans) to understand it immediately, never mind get past a label they perceive as too pretentious for words?  As soon as the words "profound knowledge" come out of your mouth in a roomful of execs, you will be thrown out on your ear (from my experiences 30 years ago -- there were several):


What is needed are COMPETENT Deming practitioners (not "bible thumpers") who know how to:

1. QUIETLY, and without fanfare, get RESULTS that move "the numbers that make the execs sweat" (easier than you might think):


2. put a stop to "silly meetings" like this (will yield incredible cultural respect):


3. "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" (i.e., show how to get RESULTS) when faced with routine, everyday data meetings who use "analysis" techniques such as these:


Logic + Humans = Change?  Think again!  Attention deficit execs want RESULTS

Another great article, Davis!

You know I'm always happy to read one of your articles, especially about Deming. We have talked about him a lot over the years, and have probably agreed on everything with the possible exception of the value of the Red Bead to teach SoPK. 

I am afraid I am somewhat to blame for some the current state (Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa), however, or at least the consulting profession is to blame (along with a generous helping of Rule 4 of the Funnel)...I mean, it's mostly a problem of leadership failure, and the dominance of the shareholder primacy theory in business, and evreything else that has driven business leaders to continue embracing short-term results, performance evaluations, etc. But I have noticed some other trends over the years, too. 

I think you are spot-on about Motorola. I know some people who worked there--good Deming-steeped people--and my understanding is that they were tryiing to operationalize the philosophy. They did a lot of great things. Then Welch was sold on it as a cost-cuttitng philosophy. You can certainly cut costs, and so the Big 5 got on board. They were accountants, not statisticians or quality professionals, so their nail was money, and their hammer became Six Sigma. I remember articles in Quality Progress by a PWC person who said that unless a Black Belt project was going to net you 250K, you shouldn't do it. I was appalled, and wrote to QP editors, but that letter was lost. So, we drifted (Rule 4). 

The other thing, for all GE's early success with Six Sigme, their culture didn't change appreciably, either. My dad was a life-long GE engineer, who once told me that while he was glad I had figured out what to do with my life, he was sorry to see me getting into Quality. "At GE, our philosophy has always been that it's better to have a sister in a cathouse than a brother in quality control." That, along with some of his other platitudes--"A camel is a horse designed by a committee" and "the surest way to ruin something is to improve it"--kind of illustrate where that culture was. Now, you take a bunch of these people who have never cared at all about Quality, problably learned the least they could in the mandatory training, and put someone in charge of them who tells them they have to become a Black Belt if they want to stay, and fires the bottom 10 percent...well, it's only a matter of time before a lot of these people pulled 15 red beads, and ended up on the street. And the premier bullet on their resumes? "GE Black Belt." So, Rule 4 - we end up with the blind training the blind, and then those people end up training othere...

Then the consulting world discovered Lean Thinking, and because you didn't need stats, we now had a simpler approach to (if not better quality) efficiency. Don't get me wrong...I'm not against the principles in the TPS, but they were part of a total systems approach at Toyota, and have become something else you can do. So I started hearing a lot of competitive nonsense between Lean and Six Sigma consultants, none of whom had ever learned anything about Quality, really, and didn't understand how silly their arguments sounded. 

So, glad to talk more, but I'm tired (just finished my last round of Chemo), and realize I've been on the stump long enough. Let's catch up sometime! 

Best regards (and Season's Greatings) to all,

Rip Stauffer

Thanks for such a heartfelt reply, Rip!

And, yup, we still disagree about the red bead experiment...

But, then again, there are COMPETENT demonstrators who KNOW how to follow-up to get RESULTS.  Methinks you qualify...


Your history is useful.  Quality is stuck atop Mount Stupid...and all its vested interests.

Care to start a "13th clown" club with me?

Let's do catch up soon (sorry to hear about the state of your health -- sending stealth healing "vibes" your way!)

ALL the best for 2020,